Letting go is the hardest part of parenting. Sweet memories help...a little.
| Condo-lences: Letting My Condo Condor Soar
By Donna Lowich
“By the way, Mom, I won’t be home for dinner tomorrow night.” Those words, ‘By the way, Mom,’ have instilled in me a fear and dread of unimaginable proportions ever since my son, Jeff, learned to utter that phrase. He used it innumerable times during his early school years, usually at the precise moment when he was supposed to be going to bed, and or the library was closing: “By the way, Mom, my such-and-such report is due tomorrow.” As he grew older, the subject changed, but never the phraseology and never, never the method: “By the way, Mom, tomorrow’s the prom, and I didn’t order any flowers.” Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea.
Tonight’s phrase caught my attention once again. “How come, Jeff?”
“I’ve got an appointment to go see a condo.”
Condo? Jeff moving out? Thoughts tumbled in, out, and around my head. I know, deep in the depths of my heart, that a parent’s goal is to prepare their child to lead an independent, productive life, spread their wings, leave the nest and soar. I’m all for that. I know that has always been my goal for Jeff. But in pursuit of that goal, I didn’t prepare me for the time when Jeff would be moving out on his own.
Jeff put in a bid for the condo the next evening; we waited for a response. As the next day drew to a close, I had a sinking feeling that his bid wasn’t accepted although he had put in for the full asking price. Now, it was time for me to get angry, putting aside my own feelings of sadness and angst for the moment, because I didn’t want Jeff to be disappointed if they had a second buyer who outbid him. Instead of the mother bird worried about nudging her offspring out of the nest, I instantly transformed myself into a mother hen, worried about the fate of the condo. First, I was worried about Jeff getting it; then I was worried about him not getting it.
Then, I got what I wanted, and yet, didn’t want. A text message, in a typically understated, what I call “Jeffrey-style” delivery: ‘She accepted my offer’. I called him immediately and congratulated him.
When he got home, I asked when he would be closing on his new home. “Either thirty or sixty days, I’m not sure,” Jeff replied.
Grappling as best I could with all of this new information, I gasped, “But, that’s not enough time!”
“Mom, it’s OK. That’s plenty of time to get a mortgage.”
“Sure, that’s plenty of time for a mortgage and for you to get ready to move, it’s just not enough time for me to prepare.” Then I smiled the smile I always do to signal that I was half joking, which also meant that I was half serious.
As my only offspring was about to nudge himself out of our nest, I was trying not to stop him completely, maybe just delay it for as long as possible. Of course, I want him to spread his wings and soar; I just want him to do it a little closer to the nest! Hmm, maybe I can talk him into using his new condo just as a summer home. After all it is about a half hour’s ride south of here.
No, I didn’t want to stop him, not really. It’s just that Jeff and I have always been close, as mothers and sons tend to be. But in addition to that, we share some significant memories when, as a four-year-old, he took it upon himself to become my coach before, during, and after my physical therapy sessions that followed two spinal cord surgeries in 1985.
During the following summer, while at day camp, Jeffrey approached a counselor who had led the camp in exercises, and told him that I was having trouble moving my fingers. “Can you show me some exercises to do with my Mom to help fix her hands?”
After being shown some exercises to try, Jeff came home and promptly started closing my hands. “My counselor told me to try this with your hands,” he explained, as he closed my hands with his little fingers pressing against mine, and then asking me to open them. That same caring, determined effort that Jeff demonstrated to me during that time bonded us in a way that nothing else could.
Jeff’s buying a home of his own is a happy and proud time, and yet nostalgic for me. It brings back those dark days that were made ever so much brighter by a little boy’s unconditional love and how he made our house a home when I returned from the hospital. But when I think of it, I need to let him spread his wings, because he helped me to do the same.